The Tree Year: My wizened apple trees make a fashionable entrance

by Danielle Charles


January always finds me overly ambitious and pathologically motivated – lists of books I will read, things I will write about, projects to embark upon and exciting plans that will be executed throughout the year. If I could maintain that surge of enthusiasm and initiative, I should be one very productive lady (I’d be on my second novel by now, having just mastered the violin and become fluent in French). Alas, the weeks of winter roll by, and I find that my ideas of what I might accomplish and my abilities of what I can accomplish are often quite asunder.

One of my many aspirations for this year was to follow the lead of some of my other beloved bloggers and commit to The Tree Year – a marvelous campaign designed to celebrate the International Year of the Forests by intimately getting to know a tree and sharing your observations with the world. “I will do it next week, ” said I in January. Then it was February. And of course, you see that now it has become March. But I made a great discovery yesterday that has saved me the disgrace of the whole matter (and taken away my excuse of it being too late to start now). March, in the Roman calendar, was the first month of the year – and indeed remained such in many countries (Russia, Great Britain and her respective colonies) up until the latest date of 1752. Ha!

Now, you see, it all becomes clear. I must start my tree calendar in March, because March was the original and truest commencement of the year. I particular like this idea, not only as it saves me from the weight of my procrastinations, but because March is the beginning of the yearly growing cycle. It is spring (or soon it shall be) – and so immediately we shall see some good deal of action coming from my old dear friend the apple tree.

So, I introduce you:

Patiently waiting for spring, there are my twin apples holding their burdens of snow. There is a saying that March comes in like a lion and leaves like a lamb. I don’t know about the lamb part of yet, but they certainly don’t lie about the first part. The rains that yesterday promised to melt away our snow and give us sight of the earth again switched to snow come night fall, and we awoke this morning to nearly 2 feet adding to the thick blanket smothering the ground.  I may just imagine it, but I fancy that they look as though the burden of snow is bearing quite heavily upon them. I fancy that they hope for spring and the warmth of the sun as much as I do.

Apple trees have always held significance to me. Spring would not be as fair if it weren’t for their blushing flowers, and fall would not be as sweet if it weren’t for the nourishment of their fruits. It is no wonder to me that humans have endowed this tree with so much legend and mystery, linking them so often to immortality and paradise.  I remember when I was young, a teacher of mine slicing an apple in half horizontally, and revealing to me the most perfect 5 pointed star within. He told me that the star was a symbol of great wisdom and knowledge – of connection to the immortal and the unknown. What a curious thing that a tree could be at once so earthly and comforting – yet so ethereal as well.

There was no debate when my husband and I pondered last summer where was to be the site of our wedding ceremony – it would be the great apple tree we had walked by so often during the years – the tree in the field beyond his parent’s house that has always possessed a sense of comfort as well as mystery about it. Together we have picked her apples, gathered her blossoms and marveled at her majesty. Standing in the middle of a field, with the forest wrapping us on one side like a great amphitheater, and our friends and families circling us on the other,  it was the most beautiful place to stand, under the shelter of her arching branches, as we made our vows to one another.

And when searching for a place after our move to Vermont, we knew at once that we had found the right spot by the presence of two old, wizened apple trees in the backyard. Though they are old and no longer bear much fruit to speak of, their presence provides a sense of comfort and security – as though they hold us always in their watchful gaze and serene, wise countenance. It always gives me pleasure to glance out the window and see them standing there in the backyard.

Unfolding leaves and blossoms last April

So now that I have gotten around to beginning, I shall follow through with a monthly (or perhaps more! – though I wouldn’t hold your breath) post about them – honoring, celebrating and noting the great beauty of these trees as they move through the cycle of the year (beginning in March of course!). Hope you enjoy.